JANUARY 24, 2017

Editor's Notebook: Tragedy Avoidance

Portable lighting devices -- flashlights, like these from Streamlight -- are very handy when you need to see in the dark. Don't forget stationary lighting, like a porch light, can also come in handy when you're trying to avoid a tragic mistake.
You want tactics? Here's a good one: avoid a tragic mistake, specifically a mistaken-identity shooting. Seems like so many people are worried about speed to the first hit out of the holster, split times and the like, they don't consider threat identification. That's not the half of it. How many people routinely carry a gun while at home? For those who don't, how many actually practice a plan of (1) getting the gun, (2) putting it in a ready condition if stored empty or half-loaded, and (3) moving with the now-prepared firearm in a way that doesn't endanger non-combatants or unknown contacts? What do you do with the gun if you have to go hands-on or have to render medical aid? The most recent tragic case is one cited by contributor Claude Werner, the Tactical Professor. A child roused her sleeping father, told him she believed someone was breaking in. He responded, gun in hand, opened the front door and shot at a figure outside. The unknown contact was his wife, a night worker who'd come home early. She died from the gunshot injury. The most obvious response is "why no flashlight?" A good question, but my first question is "can't you speak?"
Most people don't get to train in shooting exercises conducted in adverse lighting conditions -- but that doesn't mean you can't dry practice use of a flashlight. Doing shooting practice while holding the light in its using position even in broad daylight can help you manipulate a light without firing a shot.
It's a case of having no plan to deal with contingencies: purchase of a tool and using it as a talisman. No one's perfect and I feel badly about the gun owner – more so about his children – but this was preventable. And it's repeated in some manner, fashion, form all too often. Keeping firearms secure – there was at least one child in the home – is a good idea. Arming oneself in an unknown trouble situation isn't unwise. Doing so in conditions of adverse light absent using light – portable or fixed – isn't a good idea. One form of the story said that the deceased was still out on the porch. Was the lightbulb burned out? Did he just not turn the light on? If the light wasn't functional, didn't he have a light on the gun or in his hand? It seems you have to see before you can morally, ethically, legally shoot a gun. Let's say that artificial light was banned in his locality, maybe some silly ordinance that prohibited violating hours of natural darkness by using any kind of manmade lighting – couldn't he speak?
A caveat about gun-mounted lights: When mounted to a firearm, a flashlight like this Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro, becomes a "gun." Use bounce lighting to identify that unknown contact. Do not muzzle anyone you haven't identified as a deadly threat.
"Who's there?" is a valid question. In the event there's a closed door, you can modulate your voice, increasing volume by shouting from the diaphragm – "WHO'S THERE?" With no training at all, no practice, no preparation, you can use the power of your voice. This comes to mind because a close relative, someone quite dear to me, has recently decided to have a firearm ready for defense in the home. My recommendations didn't mention what kind of gun, what caliber, what cartridge to use – I did provide a rapid access safe to handle the Rule 5 issue. My recommendations were centered around Rule 4 – Know your target. Know what's in front of it, behind it, on either side of it. Identify the contact visually. Use a light – in fact, this is a person who's been the recipient of some of my portable lighting devices and who has provided them to offspring. I also recommended the power of the voice: there's always going to be the time that someone arrives on the property when it's unexpected. In fact, that happened quite recently in that family, but it was a law enforcement response, not a loved one unexpectedly coming home. Look. See. Identify. Verbalize. These are things you can think through, rehearse, and practice. If the light you use is attached to the gun – then it's not a light. It's a gun. Don't muzzle someone you can't visually identify (Rule 2). Use bounce lighting from the gun-mounted light to see who it is. If the light's not connected to the gun, learn to handle the light without firing the gun – and don't muzzle noncombatants. -- Rich Grassi